Eco-friendly wedding planner uses her creativity
and eye for detail to find authentic Florida venues,
source from local businesses and create locavore menus.
STORY BY MELINDA WEBSTER
PHOTOS BY KAT BRAMAN PHOTOGRAPHY
Every bride knows that the secret behind every great wedding is a great wedding planner. But Desiree Oftedal has taken great wedding planning to a whole new level with her business, Desiree Dawn Events.Her tagline, “stylish, timeless and sustainable,” couldn’t describe Desiree’s weddings any better: They all have stylish green elements sprinkled throughout—from location, to food and decorations, to invitations.
Desiree’s career as a wedding planner began when she attended “a gorgeous waterfront wedding celebration in Pensacola” after her college graduation. “From start to finish, the whole event went off seamlessly,” she recalls, adding that she was impressed by the meticulous preparation and coordination by the “fabulous and sweet wedding planner.” After that she was hooked. Desiree started out by working with established planners as a day-of coordinator, and then went into business on her own once she had learned the ropes.
Desiree’s upbringing helped her approach the job from a fresh new perspective, with a sharp eye for unique style, classic trends, and design balance. She brings a sense of logic and analysis, thanks to her electrical engineer dad, coupled with the funky creativity of her artist mom, a vintage weaver. This has helped her plan and host eco-friendly weddings without sacrificing any of the style and pomp of traditional weddings.
“We couldn’t have had such a beautiful wedding if it weren’t for her vision, ideas, hard work, and her helpers for the day of. I’m so glad she was there to walk us through the planning process step by step, and to give us advice when we needed it,” raves client Mallory, who married her sweetheart, Kyle, on the beach in North Fort Myers. “No one in our family or wedding party had to worry about decorating or setting up. Everyone was able to relax and enjoy our special day!”
Little do clients such as Mallory know exactly how much work goes into making each and every one of these weddings such a special day, starting with the location itself.
When scouting for wedding venues, Desiree looks for anything with an outdoor space that allows Florida’s landscape to shine. She loves backyards, historical sites, and any location that has that old Florida charm. Her weddings have taken place at Lucky Old Sun Ranch, Wadsworth Ranch, Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, Burroughs Home and Gardens, Elliott Museum, Crane’s Beach House, Morikami Museum, and the Palm Beach Zoo. All are authentically Floridian, with breathtaking views and great natural elements.
Once a venue is selected, Desiree works with creative designer Laura McGlynn to perfect the space for the couple getting hitched. Desiree has a natural instinct for layout and décor, while Laura creates customized invitations, gift bags and the like. She has even decorated a space with hand-painted signs on reclaimed wood and rowing oars for one earth-minded couple!
Then it’s time to plan the wedding meal. No detail is neglected, from soup to nuts—and beyond.
“Everything relating to the food is taken into consideration to reflect the couple’s style and taste as genuinely as possible,” says Desiree, who has done extensive research and has developed a distinct culinary style. She likes to keep the food rustic, authentic, and as close to its original state as possible. She believes that when guests recognize what they are biting into, their comfort level rises and they relax into the atmosphere.
Desiree also likes to keep the menu as far from stuffy as possible. She encourages creativity and personalization, such as incorporating family recipes, late-night meals, and even odd delights of the bride and groom. Other details, such as the trays and special platters for small bites, utilizing wedding colors in the servers’ attire, and deciding how to present the main course (family-style or otherwise) can really make the whole event stand out.
Desiree encourages her couples to visit local farmers markets and farms for inspiration for their menus. This helps keep the menu organic and supports local businesses as well. She is particularly impressed by one local farm, Swank Specialty Produce in Loxahatchee, whose sold-out Swank Table events really take the farm-to-table movement to heart. These on-site, al fresco luncheons feature a multicourse menu by local celebrity chefs paired perfectly with wine, spirits, and beer. Desiree says she is just waiting for the day Swank farm is ready to host weddings and other events too, as it would serve as the ultimate backdrop.
THE WEDDING CAKE
Because the wedding cake serves as the centerpiece for the event, this is one element you can’t get wrong. “It took me forever to find a baker who understood that dessert should be just as delicious as it is beautiful,” Desiree says. “Earth and Sugar takes it one step further by sourcing local ingredients and the finest natural confectionary delights you can imagine.” Earth and Sugar, in Palm Beach, is an all-natural and organic bakery that provide handmade confections in designs that combine vintage and modern.
Desiree always suggests creating a signature cocktail to make the wedding unique and memorable. These can be super-colorful, use local ingredients, and be made with locally crafted spirits. Some Florida-based spirits options are 4 Orange vodka, crafted in Palm Beach Gardens; Hemmingway Rum, out of Delray Beach; and Tampa’s Florida Distillery cane vodka—which sources its strawberries from Plant City, blueberries from Brooksville, grapes from Gainesville, and oranges from Indian River to craft its flavored vodkas.
Desiree also notes that by serving a signature cocktail at a wedding, the bar line is shorter and guests do not wait as long for drinks. And if beer is more your scene, you can always serve locally brewed beers from Tequesta Brewing, Saltwater Brewery, Due South Brewing, or Barrel of Monks.
Desiree Dawn Events are “eco-chic” from start to finish—and even afterward. For instance, the gorgeous floral arrangements never go to waste, because Desiree works with Petals with Purpose, an organization that collects flowers from various celebrations and delivers them to nursing homes, shelters, hospitals, and hospice facilities to brighten others’ days.
In addition, Desiree is always looking to the future to help streamline the wedding planning process. Through partnerships with local businesses and other professionals, she is refining her style and off ering her clients an easier time planning the various elements of their events. With the local food movement growing in Florida all the time, she visits as many new farms, restaurants, and event spaces as she can.
Desiree Dawn Events